Candlemas Talk

24 01 2014

Updated 3/3/2014

Candlemas celebration, South Woodford

Candlemas celebration, South Woodford


Introduced by Fr Francis

Introduced by Fr Francis


I am delighted to say that I have been invited to give a talk at the Parish of St Anne Line in South Woodford, London, by the parish priest, Fr Francis Coveney. It will be on Sunday, 2nd February at 3:30pm in the parish hall behind the Church and I will be speaking on the subject of my book, Anne Line: Shakespeare’s Tragic Muse. If you are in London, do come along. The address is:

St Anne Line Parish, Grove Crescent, South Woodford. E18 2JR. It is a short walk from South Woodford Station on the Central Line so it is not difficult to get to. By road it is near the end of the M11.

The date, 2nd February, is highly significant. It is Candlemas day, known more formally as the Feast of the Presentation and in the past as the Feast of the Purification of Our Lady. It commemorates the time that Mary and Joseph took the baby Jesus to the temple to offer the sacrifice required in the law and were greeted by the holy widow Anna and the prophet Simeon (Luke 2:22-38). Candlemas is also the day on which the holy widow Anne Line was arrested four hundred and thirteen years ago when there was a raid on the rooms she rented in Fetter Lane. It was the eve of her eighteenth wedding anniversary. The Jesuit Henry Garnet described what happened as follows in a letter written on 11 March:

The hour came when the room of the good lady was betrayed by some Judases (as they label many) on the day of the Purification of the Madonna and a furious band of men authorized by Popham entered. The priest was standing blessing the candles and one of that band nearly seized him when he ran in among the Catholics (the heretics take the guilt for bullying a lady Catholic of good faith as though she were a man). They tried to grab the shirt-tale of the tunic and it was torn as the priest made his escape. All the others were delivered to Popham. He commanded that the tunic be repaired but it stayed in rags. The source of this was the testimony of the other lady that was sentenced to death.

Making a point at South Woodford

Making a point at South Woodford

Popham was the Lord Chief Justice. The ‘other lady’ was Mrs Gage, nee Margaret Copley (brother of Anthony Copley, author of A Fig for Fortune, a Catholic response to Spenser’s Faerie Queen – new critical edition by Susannah Monta expected later this year or 2015). Garnet’s letter is written in Italian. The word ‘tunic’ from Garnet’s Italian ‘tonica’ could be translated as ‘alb’ and that is the obvious meaning. It was a white garment worn as a vestment. From the Jesuit John Gerard we learn that Fr Page rushed up stairs and was safely hidden in a priest-hole. This is interesting because the actual house of the arrest has never been identified but this detail suggests that this was a house used by Catholics for some time. We know that Anne Line had only recently moved there. We know also that two houses used by Catholics in Fetter Lane are mentioned in intelligence reports, one of which was owned by the Payne family. It has been suggested that the execution of Fr John Payne at Chelmsford in 1581 may have had a significant influence on Anne Line’s conversion. Later on she was known to the Roper sisters of the family that had hosted John Payne in Beckenham. So, without wishing to sound flippant, it is quite likely that she was arrested at the house of Payne on Fetter Lane, and on the day the Virgin Mary was told ‘and a sword shall pierce your own heart too’.

This is part of Garnet’s letter (digitally enhanced) just to give an idea of the difficulty of working with the source material:

The hour came...

The hour came…


[edit 4/2/14] This is an early and very scrappy transcription of mine of the whole quote above, included some notes:

Hora la stanza de questa buona Signora fu per qualche Giuda [Judases] (Come nd marcano molti) tradita et cosi nel giorno della Purificano della Madonna c’entro [entered] una furia di gente autorizata dal Poppamo, et il sacerdote stando benedicendo le candele, uno di quella brigata l’havea quasi le mani adosso [addosso – siezed] ma urodei [rodare – run in?] Cathci (li heretici mettono la colpa sopru [sopruso-bully] una Signora Cathci se bene cre [cre-do?] do ch’era un huomo) lo tiro per il lembo [shirt-tail] della tonica [tunica], et lo strai: [strai-cio (straccio-cloth, rag)] cio di modo che il sacerdote fuggi et fiascose [fiasco-failure] tutti le altri erano [were] presi [taken] et menati [delivered] a Poppamo. Il quale cdmando che nd si refac [repair] esse [they] quella [that] to: [to-nica-tunic] nica ma che restasse cosi stracciata, p che [perche-because] fosse un testimonia cd radi [radice-root/source] quell altra Signora quale era ancora lei disegnata ella morte,

See the comments for a better transcription by Joe Gobbini

MCD 24/01/2014

Update 3/3/2014
I thought that the talk went really well but the confirmation was that I sold out of copies of the book at the signing afterwards and had to resort to taking orders. People seem surprised that the material is so strong. Well I certainly think so, but it is great to be able to present it directly as well as in a book. On this occasion I tried to focus on the historical research because members of the Essex Recusant Society were in the audience but in a few days time I will be talking to students at the St Anne Line Junior School in Basildon which will present another challenge. I am advised that this age-group are quite unfazed by gory details.